Journal of forensic sciences

A fatality following ingestion of the designer drug meta-chlorophenylpiperazine (mCPP) in an asthmatic--HPLC-MS/MS detection in biofluids and hair.

PMID 23009714


A 20-year-old man, a cocaine addict and regular ecstasy user, with a medical history of allergic asthma died after ingesting half a tablet earlier the same day. The white tablet, stamped with a "smiling sun" logo looked very much like an ecstasy tablet and was sold as such. He experienced a severe asthma attack just after ingesting the half tablet and it evolved over the next few hours into fatal cardiorespiratory arrest. Biological samples, taken after embalming, were analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS/MS). Analysis revealed meta-chlorophenylpiperazine (mCPP) in concentrations of 45.8 mg in a similar tablet obtained later from the drug dealer, 5.1 ng/mL in the bile, 0.3 ng/g in the liver, 15.0 ng/mL in the urine, and its absence in a hair sample (<0.02 ng/mg), which indicated he was not a regular user (whereas strong concentrations of MDMA and cocaine were found in the hair). Interrogated by the police after his arrest, the dealer said that he had sold the victim and for the very first time two tablets with the same "smiling sun" logo. The tablet used for analysis was from the same brand as the one ingested by the victim. The autopsy excluded other causes of death, while the histological analyses showed a large number of polynuclear eosinophils in the bronchial walls, confirming the asthmatic pathology. None of the other organs examined (larynx, liver, heart, adrenal glands, and kidneys) showed any distinctive signs, and in particular no inflammatory infiltrate. The death was the result of an asthma attack in an asthmatic person, violently decompensated following ingestion of approximately 20 mg of mCPP.